Moms, We Have Each Other

MOMS

Ever meet a mom and think, “Man, I wanna be her friend!” That happened to me at the park today.

I was just sitting there minding my own business, watching my kids run all over the play area when this other woman walked toward us with two girls close to my kids ages. I really did not want to make small talk. I just wanted to sit alone … in silence. Our kids were so ecstatic when they met each other I thought they were long lost friends.

“Hello, how are you?

“Good, how about you?”

From there she sat down on my bench and I don’t remember much about our conversation other than we laughed and we had the same vibe going. We watched our kids from afar as they helped themselves up and down the stairs, come down the slide together and even walked over to use the bathroom by themselves. This mom didn’t even flinch when all of the kids kicked off their shoes to run through the park in their socks! Neither of us jumped up to scold or demand the kids keep their shoes on. We just rolled with it and continued our conversation.

Every time one of her kids asked her a question she replied with the same tone and remarks I encourage my kids with, “You can do it. YES you CAN!” “No, I just sat down.” “OK, so just go to the bathroom.” It was like hearing myself, but with a voice outside of my own head. I felt like, “so I’m NOT the only one that says these things!!?” We both sat back and let the kids just play and make up stories while we chatted. It was so nice to not feel pressured to impress this mom with how attentive I can be, or for either of us to defend our decisions on organic food, co sleeping, or vaccines. We were just two tired moms sitting at the park watching our kids. We didn’t need to be anything more.

We shared stories about how life used to be when kids could just open the door and run free. A time when kids ate dirt and peed in the yard. It was incredible to share this space with a mom who was just so Whatever. She didn’t judge me and I didn’t judge her. We didn’t even judge other moms. We just shared the same philosophy of keeping life simple and doing what we need to, to get through the day. She is a grandma well into her 60’s and I am a mother about to turn 40. And, we just clicked.

“Man, these kids exhaust me. As soon as I hit the pillow I’m out like a light.”

“Me too.”

“It’s great that they have each other though.”

“It really is.”

Dear Moms of The World

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This week has been incredibly eye opening. On Monday I had a lovely visit with a more seasoned mom who has raised three children, all three on their way out of the nest. I was a little on edge with two whirling littles, mostly because we are so noisy. I was worried they’d make a mess, break something or just completely melt down. Thankfully, they were complete angels! It was such a wonderful experience spending time with a mom whom I did not have to itemize my organic food choices with, or plead my case for having to formula feed babies instead of breast feeding. It was just nice to be accepted as a member of this mom community where we all work our hardest to provide the best for our kids.

Then Tuesday came and the shaming began. Articles started popping up in my Facebook news feed about the stigma of having a c-section. I was curious to know if anyone actually felt shamed for having a c-section. I had a c-section and people often ask if I did. Maybe that’s par for the twin parenting course? Maybe I am too busy to hear these kinds of reactions, or maybe I’ve just been really lucky I haven’t crossed paths with such ugliness. But, no one has ever commented on how I “took the easy way out,” or worse, “didn’t actually give birth.”

dear moms

Dear Moms of the World,

What are we doing????! Are we really that insecure about our positions as mothers that we need someone else to feel superior to? Aren’t we better than that? Aren’t we in charge of role modeling loving, caring, productive behaviors so we can raise loving, caring and productive human beings? Why are we “mean girling” potential friends and judging moms whose stories we most likely don’t even know?! Why are we freely dumping our personal opinions onto the world wide web and not sorry when it hurts? Can we all agree that every decision we make for our kids is hard? Can we all just have a giant group hug and drink a hot cup of coffee til this whole me vs. you thing blows over? I know I’d really like that.

Sincerely,

The Whatever Mom

 

 

Review- Mystic Aquarium Road Trip

You may have noticed a break since my last post. We have been traveling and jumping into our new soccer routine. During our Spring break vacation we made an over night trip to Mystic Connecticut to see the Aquarium and a few other local family friendly places to play. My kids love, love, love ocean life. They absolutely adore penguins and whales and all kinds of sea creatures. Thankfully the Mystic Aquarium has all of the above! My kids almost lost their minds when the Beluga whale came out of no where to give them a great big kiss through the glass tank! The excited looks on their faces and their squealing was priceless!

If you’ve ever wanted to make a trip to see the aquarium in Mystic, here’s what you need to know:

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Enjoy thousands of colorful fish, jelly fish and other living sea creatures!

 

MYSTIC AQUARIUM

Purchase tickets online for a 15% discount (the hotels only offer $2-$3 discount coupons). Redeemed printed tickets at the aquarium for actual tickets to take with you.

We did not know there were so many outdoor exhibits such as the Beluga Whales, Sea Lions and African Penguins. It was a drizzly day and a little chilly. Thankfully we were dressed properly, but if the rain had not held out we would have missed out on a few key exhibits. Be sure to bring back up rain gear, or an extra coat on a chilly day! The inside exhibits are plentiful! There are many interactive things to keep little ones busy. My kids couldn’t get enough of the Sea Lion show, or the hands-on Wild exhibit. At the Wild exhibit we picked up a Scavenger Hunt card on our way in and had fun checking off everything on the list. My kids especially loved the science area where they could dig for dinosaur bones. The majority of the museum is stroller friendly and there is stroller parking available at the Foxwoods Maritime Sea lion show. It is very accessible for wheel chairs as well. They make it easy for your entire family to enjoy the exhibits.

Tips: There is a cafe to purchase lunch. However, it is simple fair of chicken fingers, burgers, fries, pizza, wraps and soft pretzels. If you want to save some money buy a large pizza and share it with the family. Or, pack your own lunch and eat at the cafe (no food or beverages allowed inside the aquarium) and keep the $40-$50 dollars you would have spent to buy a cute something at the souvenir shop.  Even better- skip the souvenir shop all together and purchase the photos they take when you walk in the entrance. Those run about $25.00 for two 3×5 pictures, or $35.00 for (2) 3×5’s (1) 4×6 and (2) 5×7’s. Last, bring some change for the penny press machines 50 cents per penny. Parking is FREE. If you don’t get to see everything in one day, or miss the outside exhibits due to rain, you can have your admission tickets validated to use again the next day.

 

 

Enjoy your cocoa and cookies here!
Enjoy your cocoa and cookies here!

HOTEL

We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites just four minutes away from the aquarium. We chose this hotel after careful research and recommendations. There are certainly cheaper hotels, but the pricing was middle of the road with great reviews. We were sold on the free breakfast in the morning (another savings of around $50 for a family of four) and free cookies at night. Sounds like such a little thing, but my kids looked adorable coming down in their P.J.’s for cookies and cocoa before bedtime. We also used the  pool to tire the kids out after dinner. There is a small fridge and  microwave for use in each room.

Tips: Coffee/tea and cocoa are available in the lobby 24/7. The free cookies may only be available during the week. Ask when making reservations if there are any cookies/snacks provided on the weekends. There are family packages available that bundle the price of the room with tickets to the aquarium, but it is cheaper to pay separately (especially if you purchase in advance online). I also really like that the site we used to book our room adds all taxes and fees for you. So, you get to see the exact price before booking your room.

 

 

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Don’t miss this family friendly place to eat! Super affordable and can even order online for pick up!

DINNER

Mystic Pizza! You can’t make a trip to Mystic CT without eating at the famous Mystic Pizza. If you haven’t watched the movie yet they have it on continual loop at the restaurant! Or, you could rent it at home too. I loved everything about this place! It was cozy and the staff very friendly. But, most of all the pizza was delicious!! Hubby and I enjoyed sharing a seafood pizza (since I missed out on getting a lobster roll). The kids each had their own personal pizzas. The prices were very reasonable and as the slogan says it was a “slice of heaven.”

 

We stayed only one night. But, to maximize our fun we decided to break up the drive back home into smaller adventures. My kids love of ocean creatures is only second to their love of Dinosaurs. They also really love exploring kids museums. So, we found something to satisfy both loves.

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A beautifully interactive look at Dinosaurs! Kids of all ages will love this one!

DINOSAUR STATE PARK

We traveled about an  hour West of Mystic to Rocky Hill where we found Dinosaur State Park. This place is the real dino deal. A giant fossil (with 2,000 dinosaur foot prints!!) was unearthed during construction for another building project and BAM! They built an entire museum around the fossil! Kids can interact with the exhibits all around the museum. It is a very scientific look at the earth, how fossils are made, and how dinosaurs existed in New England and around the world. The very last exhibit is a hands-on learning room full of fossils, minerals, puppets, coloring and craft activities. Kids can hold actual fossils, play dinosaur games and identify animal sounds.

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Kids are encouraged to open the drawers to find actual rocks, minerals, geodes and fossils. All objects are under plexi-glass. The entire room has rows and rows of drawers kids can open!

This room is jam packed full of interactive stuff! We spent over an hour in this room alone! They have short films throughout the day you can view for free. They announce each film as it is about to play. The museum sits on a National Park, so there are several hiking trails and picnic areas to use. In the summer months they also let kids help make a plaster cast of fossils.

Tips: Admission is only $6.00 per person (under age 5 is FREE). You can make a souvenir penny press, but all the gifts in the small gift shop are super affordable. They even make a cute little goody bag for $5.00. If you don’t get a chance to pack your own lunch the museum staff has already put together a list of local restaurants.

 

 

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Our favorite exhibit! The mini grocery store lovingly created by volunteers!

KIDS PLAY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

We traveled 50 minutes from Rocky Hill to Torrington to spend a few hours getting a hands on education at the Kids Play Museum. The admission price is only $5.00 per person! There are some super cute exhibits! My kids especially loved the mini super market, the 1950’s diner and the race car pit stop.  There is a small toddler area for kids age two and under. Everything was pretty clean for our late afternoon visit at a super busy time of day.

Tips: Parking is a challenge. You can find street parking in front of the building, or on side streets and pay the meter tolls (so bring some quarters!). A few blocks further down and you will find free Municipal parking. We were lucky to find street parking right in front of the museum on our rainy day visit.

This was definitely a whirl wind visit! There are so many more places to go and see in Mystic we will definitely go back!

 

The Whatever Mom did not receive any financial compensation for this review. The opinions and views about the businesses listed in this blog are solely the opinions and views of the The Whatever Mom. Be sure to click on the headings for each business review to directly link to each website.

Dinosaur File Folder Game – Count On Fun!

My kids love to play games. They love board games, building games, I-Spy games- any game really. They also love counting, matching and sorting. So, I thought I would make a few file folder games they could pull out any time!

I found this template for our Dino Count folder at Preschoolmom.com This site is full of really great educational themes and she really lays out the lesson for you.

Here’s what you need:

1 office file folder (any color)

Print outs of matching cards

Double sided tape (or a glue stick)

Scissors

Clear laminate

Velcro pieces

Start by cutting out the squares and place the pictures of dinosaurs in correct order. Set the number squares aside. Then, adhere a piece of double stick tape on each edge of the square. Turn over and stick to the folder.

Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.

Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.

Next laminate both sides of the entire folder using clear laminate/contact paper. (Even easier if you have a laminating machine). Then laminate the number cards separately.

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I found these Velcro squares at Lowes. You can also find them in the craft section at Walmart, or in craft stores like Joanne’s Fabrics and Michael’s.

Tip: cut the page of Velcro squares in half and then “sandwich” both sides of Velcro pieces together.

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Pull the backing off and stick to the number square.

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Then, adhere to the laminated folder.

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To play the game simply pull all the numbers off of the folder and mix into a pile. The kids count the dinosaurs in each square and find the corresponding number to match.

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These games are great to pull out before dinner, before bed and travel easy. Take them with you to grandma’s house or play while out to dinner at a restaurant. My girls couldn’t wait to play with their new game! These folders will be a great addition to our busy binder activities!

 

Got a kid who loves dinosaurs? Check out these DIY Fossil cookies I made for my blog at Hudson Valley Parent.

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy. 

5 Best Practices for Date Night

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My husband and I have officially been on two dates in the same month. This is rare. Very rare. The last time we had a “date” alone together it was 2012. I can’t really call it a date. A friend of mine stayed with the kids while my husband trained me as a substitute for his early morning paper route. We woke up together at 2:30 a.m. grabbed some coffee and hit the open road. The sun was about to rise as we clink’d our hot cups of coffee to celebrate a new day. I know it sounds kind of sexy until you hear the details. He drove us all over the twisty back mountain roads while I tried not to vomit. My lack of sleep in combination with car sickness did not make for a very pleasant experience. P.s. I never drove the route again.

As we were getting ready for our first official date night in four years I started thinking, can I remember how to act while on a date? Would I remember I could sit down in a chair, or a booth to chew my food, or would my sense memory kick in and I’d want to scarf my meal over the kitchen sink? What if my waitress drops some food? Would I immediately hand her a napkin and grumble, “pick it up” or would I remember that’s not my job here. Then suddenly, I worried, WHAT would we talk about?

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Thankfully, once we were settled at our table we immediately set the ground rule of no talking about the kids or his job the whole night. Those topics weren’t off the table, but they were among a checklist of things to talk about. We also agreed the phones could be on the table in silence and only used if the baby sitter contacted us (and of course to take pics of our awesome food). Then something really amazing happened. I realized that even though my husband and I have very different interests I do find him interesting. His opinions have always been important to me. He can really be insightful in ways that I am not. I often take for granted that he does know me better than anyone else (he likes to look at the menu online before we leave to silently predict my menu choices, just so he can say “I knew you’d pick that!”).  Our conversations were about how much we love the kids, how much we hope for them. We talked about politics, religion, education, current events- all the topics that are off the table at play dates yet I so desperately crave having conversations about. It was like when we first started dating. When we would stay up all night long and talk about our lives, our hopes and dreams for the future. It is nice to connect like that now and to remember we are people not just parents.

 

Here are 5 date night  best practices:

best practices

1. Dress to impress. You don’t have to go over board here. (And, yes make-up is optional). It is nice to see my husband in something other than his work clothes. I’m sure he is happy to see me return to the woman he married vs. the scraggly mom in jeans and a sloppy bun. It fires up that chemistry between us.

2. Keep it simple. Coordinating schedules and bed time routines and date night details can be stressful. Don’t worry about all the planets lining up just right. Take advantage of the time you do have. If you have a baby sitter for only 2 hours don’t drive to the fancy restaurant out of town. Pack a picnic and hit the park closest to your house, walk the mall hand in hand and window shop, or grab a cup of coffee at that cute little bistro you’ve had your eye on.

3. Be your best self. We live in such a rushed state as parents. We shout from one side of the house with demands while chasing after kids. Our days are filled with noise. Slow down. Compliment each other. Open doors for each other and say kind things in a nice voice. Remember the softer side of your relationship and reconnect with those lovely people for a while.

4. Communicate. Put down the phone, or leave it in your purse. Make eye contact with each other and not a TV. Share your thoughts on your relationship and tell your spouse things you appreciate about them but maybe didn’t have time to say it. Remember this isn’t a time to share everything that pissed you off during the week. And for the love do NOT bring up your in-laws!

5. Enjoy this time together. You will spend the next twenty-one years rushing and trying to meet the demands of the little people in your home. It’s nice to press the pause button on all that chaos and connect with the person you will spend (if you’re lucky) the next 50 years with.

What are your best date night practices?

Dreams of Chicory and Powdered Sugar on A Winters Day

bignet

Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!

That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.

I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!

Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!

Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:

  • Frozen bread dough
  • Coconut Oil
  • Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
  • Paper lunch sacks
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Ingredients for a delicious snowy morning.

 

Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.

Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).

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Little hands love working the dough!

 

Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.

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The shapes aren’t perfect when you let the kids help. But, it all cooks the same!

 

You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).

Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).

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Doughy goodness before adding the sweet stuff.

 

Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.

Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.

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Personal preference on which type of sugar to use.

 

Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!

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Covering the dough in sugar is the best part!

 

If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.

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Beignet Knock-offs

 

Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).

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Toasting to 30 at the French 75

 

Love Letters That Last A Lifetime

Give more than chocolates on Valentine's Day
Give more than chocolates on Valentine’s Day

Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.

Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.

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Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.

 

I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.

Write the date and holiday on the envelop.
Be sure to include the date!

I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.

Our box of keepsakes and love letters.
Our box of keepsakes and love letters.

One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.

 

Tips for writing a love letter to your child:

1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.

2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.

3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).

4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”

5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.

Insanity of Living with The Toddlerazzi

I found this Facebook post I wrote on November 15, 2012- just weeks before my twins turned two.

Day in the life of a SAHM

November 15, 2012 at 2:17pm

Many people ask me (on a near daily basis) is it hard having twins? My reply is usually “depends on the day.”

I thought I’d share a little glimpse into one of those days:

Thursday November 15, 2012

5:44 a.m. wide awake

6:00 roll out of bed to tackle dishes, laundry, breakfast and get dinner in the crock pot.

6:22 alerted by shrieking child who isn’t due to awaken for another hour. Quickly calculate approx. how long I can let her cry it out while I take a shower.

6:23 hop in shower while drinking coffee

6:24 get dressed while brushing teeth

6:25 walk in to get girls who are angrily emptying their crib in protest to my delay

6:30 give girls bowl of rice crispies and cup of milk

6:32 on hands and knees cleaning rice crispies off of floor

7:00 chase first child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.

7:22 chase second child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.

7:30 engage in philosophical debate about why we wear clothes.

7:32 give up and let them run naked.

8:00 attempt to finish dishes while the kids empty dirty laundry from basket and scatter about the house.

8:10 pick up scattered laundry while the girls hunt for mischievous projects

8:15 pick up box full of dried pasta dumped onto kitchen floor while demanding, “don’t eat that!”

8:30 diaper change goes awry x 2.

8:45 Someone frees the kitchen drawer from captivity. I clean up the mess and kiss non-existent boo-boo.

8:50 attempt to make 2nd pot of coffee with a toddler attached to each leg.

9:00 Blue’s Clues TAKE ME AWAY!

9:15 Blue’s Clues is not working- spend next 10 minutes breaking up fist fight over who gets to be in mommy’s lap.

9:30 realize I didn’t eat yet. Quickly make scrambled eggs.

9:35 endure hostile take over of my breakfast.

9:36 begin cursing every person who’s ever asked me, “are you going to have another?”

10:00 both girls start rummaging in the cupboard and argue with me that the gallon sized vinegar bottle is in fact juice. Go ahead try it- I DARE ya!

10:03 attempted unauthorized potty break, assaulted by the toddlerazzi invading my privacy.

10:15 begin the great diaper chase

10:40 children mock my attempts to build with blocks by kicking over my tower and laughing.

10:50 drift off and quickly awakened by someone slapping me and yelling, “mommymommymommyyyyyyyyyyy!”

11:00 turn on Blue’s Clues and forced to participate in ritualistic wailing for mail.

11:15 held captive on the couch and forced to watch as Blue finds every stinking last clue.

12:00 prepared a lovely meal for the floor to enjoy.

12:30 on hands and knees again to clean up floor.

12:45 play let’s make a deal- if you let me change your diaper you can have a cookie!

1:00 toss children in crib with cookie… stick a fork in me cuz I’m DONE!

That’s only HALF MY DAY!!

This post made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. When I was in the thick of the insanity of taking care of two toddlers alone I didn’t always find the humor. It felt like those struggles were going to stick around for a long time. The good news is it is two years later and we have all survived and moved on to different dramas!

I wasn’t the most patient parent, and sometimes I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy (friends, family, kids, hubby) and forgot about myself. I really hated when people said, “you will miss these days.” The last thing I thought I’d miss is the nonstop screaming and crying and lack of shower time. I still don’t miss that part, but what I miss most is each unique little age and stage. I feel like I just didn’t get enough time to enjoy each kid during particular stages. It was just the three of us and not enough of me to go around. I felt rushed to get them through their milestones so I could check them off my parental to-do list.

Now that they are four, things are calming down in many ways. My girls are still a handful, and we still have our intense moments of battling wills. But it has only taken me the past four years to understand what it means to slow down, relax and don’t sweat the small stuff. The house is a little messier, the crafts get set aside and I’m happier to just sit down and hold my girls close. This is our last year together before they spring board into being a “big kid”: kids with their own opinions and mom just gets a little less cool each day. I already miss the spunky little toddlers they used to be with their chubby little bodies bobbing through the house, their tiny little giggles and the sweetness of their tiny head tucked under my chin.

Even though people warned me to slow down, take it easy and don’t rush- I just couldn’t understand it until I walked that path myself. I am not one to loiter with mom guilt, but there are days I feel completely guilty for wanting to hurry us through the roughest parts. I didn’t realize that would also hurry us through the sweetest parts too.

Enjoy the insanity- it doesn’t last as long as you think. And, one day when it is over you really will miss it!

Pom-poms and cardboard- expensive toys are overrated

My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.

I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.

It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!

 

Easy materials you may already have at home.
Easy materials you may already have at home.
  • Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
  • A pair of tongs
  • 2 empty paper towel tubes
  • 2 empty baskets
  • Tape

 

Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.
Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.

Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).

 

Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.
Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.

To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).

This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.

Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:

 

Pom-pom transfer game – great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and just plain fun!

Pom-pom turn taking game – teach kids the art of patience while they wait to take their turn! Just like Kerplunk!

Pom-pom baby play– For the moms with toddlers (age 1+)

Pom-poms– 10 ways to have fun!

Pom-pom catapult– because this is fun at any age!

 

Why bother buying expensive toys when kids really will play with cardboard and tweezers?

 

 

Kids just wanna have fun!

If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.

mcdonald's party

If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.

We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.

This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.

Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:

Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.
Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.

I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00

After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.

Our dining room under the sea.

Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.

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Scrap book embellishments are a perfect addition to our fishnet.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.

I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.

Total for decorations = $23.00

For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).

I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.

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Pirate booty.

Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!

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Materials for DIY goody bags.

 

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Our finished goody bags.

 

The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added  “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).

Under the sea mystery box.
Under the sea mystery box.

I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!

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Under the Sea photo booth.

Total for activities = $45

I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that).  Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00

Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).

Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.

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Collecting donations at a birthday party is a super easy way to give back!

 

 

After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.

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Hand crafted and personalized thank you notes.

 

The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!